During 1998-99, the Steering Committee began to explore reasonable approaches to outcomes assessment and become familiar with national trends, issues and best practices. Our college sent a team to the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE) National Assessment Conference in June 1998 and again in June 1999, June 2000 and June 2001.
Following these initial orientation activities, we began our work on a very small scale by collaborating with a program in the Center for Technical Studies that was interested in developing outcome measures on a pilot basis. The Art and Computer Design (ACD) program at the AOS level became the pilot.
As a result of the pilot project, our college gained considerable experience in how to identify key program outcomes; how to use existing classroom assessment as a springboard to assessment of a capstone nature; and how to develop assessment rubrics in the technical and general education domain. The pilot also provided us with a nucleus of faculty experienced in the process who then were able to help other programs in the development of outcomes assessment plans.
Definitions and Parameters
The Steering Committee established the following outcomes assessment design parameters:
- The pilot was an iterative process with the emphasis on what we can learn from establishing an outcomes assessment design. The point of the assessment pilot was to better understand how a program might approach establishing a system of outcomes assessment. The intent was not to develop one model that would be applied to all programs.
- The pilot focused only on the AOS level program.
- The outcome competencies included in the pilot focused on five (5) specific areas—all of which were derived from the Strategic Plan:
- Technical Skills
- English Literacy
- Communication Skills
- Critical Thinking
- In order to keep the pilot on a reasonable threshold for success, the underlying objective was to identify a small number of key student learning outcomes within each of these five (5) domains which the Art and Computer Design faculty considered compelling and which fit with the nature of the AOS program and the mission of NTID.